Notes for Morte d'Arthur by Sir Thomas Malory

 -1485 is an important date for 2 reasons
  1. This work was published by William Caxton. Caxton was the first printer in England, and this was one of his first books to publish. The rise of printing is one of the marks of the end of the Middle Ages. This technical advance made it possible for the masses to afford books, which were much cheaper than hand-copied documents. This affordability eventually led to an increased emphasis on education and reading, whereas before only a few read. The majority had received information verbally through speech & song or visually through statues, paintings, etc.
  2. Richard III was defeated by Henry VII, ending the civil war between the Lancasters and Yorks for control of England. Henry, a Lancaster, married Elizabeth, a York. They founded the Tudor dynasty which would take England into the Renaissance. Richard III was the LAST English king to die in battle - the idea of the king as warrior is waning.
-The epic had led to the medieval Romance. Epic focused on hero, so did romance. King was not absolute in feudal system; he owed certain loyalties to those under him or they could rebel. They gave oaths and allegiance to their lord.

Liege Lord - The term allegiance is related to the term liege. You served/pledged allegiance to the person above you on hierarchy. Basis for feudal system.

Now Heroic warfare =chivalry; standards of conduct especially when dealing w/ someone on your same level. Rules for chivalry applied only to people in certain classes who behaved as they were supposed to-stayed in their place. When you fight monsters, you fight to destroy them (as in Beowulf). What about when you fight your brother? Complex rules for warfare between Christian. The enemy is my brother. Edward the Black Prince (1330-1376) & Bertrand du Guesclin, the Eagle of Brittany, had sworn an oath of friendship @ a holy mass. Edward captured Bertrand. Negotiated ransom. Bertrand wanted to pay 100,000 florins, Edward refused. Wanted to pay less. Bertrand refused to pay less than 70,000. Set free to raise money. The first installment, 30,000, came from Joan of Kent--the wife of Edward! (Aho 87-89). Yet the same Black Prince at the siege of Limoges (1370) killed 3,000 unarmed men, women, & children. WHY? Lower class. The rules were different for the aristocracy. Certain developments in Catholicism caused changes in ideas; began to see God as part of nature, not just transcendent. In story, Mordred and Arthur pick a day to fight. In chivalric code, war was play-engaged in for its own sake. Following rules was as important as winning.

Arthur was an ideal who was always part of a mythic past. This is not so much a reflection of how people were as how they wanted to be.

-Another difference, in Epic-have supernatural god influence. What happens is the will of gods.

-In this feudal system story, we have more of a "fairyland" influence. Examples:

The relationship between Lancelot & Guinevere brings down Camelot & the Round Table. They are not the only ones at fault in this tragedy. Arthur bears some responsibility - his incestuous relationship with his sister led to the birth of Mordred, who kills Arthur.

235 Arthur doesn't want to know about the affair. He would hate to lose Lancelot. Good knights are hard to find.

241 "And much more am I sorrier for my good knights' loss than for the loss of my fair queen; for queens I might have enough, but such a fellowship of good knights shall never be together in no company."

Who warns Lancelot not to go to the queen?___________________

Who led the knights who caught Lancelot & Guinevere? __________________

Why can't Lancelot fight them at first? __________________________

What does he do so he can fight?______________________________

What is the result of the fight?_______________________________

What is the sentence against Guinevere?________________

Who tries to carry it out?___________________

What happens when they try to carry out the sentence?___________________

King Arthur has a dream the night before the final battle - He is riding high on the Wheel of Fortune, but is cast down in a pit of snakes. Fortune was fickle & could "turn" on you. If you depend on it, it will let you down.

Gawain shows up in a vision. He may be dead, but he's still surrounded by pretty women, that is, fair ladies. What's he advise Arthur to do to avoid death?____________________

Does Arthur take his advise? _________________________

Who helps Arthur as he dies? ________________________

What is Arthur's dying request? _______________________

How many times does it take to fulfill the request? _______________________

What is the translation for "Hic iacet Arthurus, rex quondam, rexque futurus" ?

Malory identifies 2 traditional ends for Arthur. What are they? (Hint - they are similar to the possible ends for Elvis.)

  1. _________________________________
  2. _________________________________
Lancelot goes to see Guinevere, but she's already dead. He took so long to get there because he's too weak to go fast. He is in the process of starving himself to death. What we might see as anorexia, the medieval writers saw as mortification of the flesh, i.e., killing the flesh to save the soul. Lancelot's last battle is with his own flesh, the flesh that brought ruin on Camelot. As always, he wins the battle. What do the angels do with Lancelot?